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CANBERRA, Australia (March 29, 1998 - PACNEWS)---The once powerful Pacific Islands trading company, Burns Philp, is selling off memorabilia and artifacts collected over more than 100 years in a desperate effort to stave off bankruptcy.

A portrait of Burns and his partner, Robert Philp, was sold last week at a Sydney auction for just $AUS 90 ($US 60).

The Australian spice and yeast company, founded in 1883 by James Burns as a shipping services for the South Pacific, developed into a huge business enterprise covering almost the whole of the Pacific Islands region. The company later moved into herb and spice trading, an interest that was to cause to the company's recent downfall following a disastrous expansion into the American market.

The remnants of Burns' shipping service was sold in December last year and last Wednesday's auction was part of an attempt by Burns, Philp & Company to raise $AUS 300 million ($US 201 million) through sales of its non-core assets. The company is also trying to raise a further $AUS 300 million ($US 201 million) from its shareholders.

Among the goods sold at the auction was a rare collection of one-pound and five-pound notes printed by Burns Philip in the late 19th century which brought almost $AUS 40,000 ($US 26,000). The notes were used to trade with places like Tonga which at the time had no official currency.

Other sales included $AUS 1,000 ($US 670) for a stuffed turtle, a stone adze for $AUS 2,600 ($US 1,740) and a giant Fijian coconut, presented to the company in 1961, was bought for $AUS 250 ($US 167). A ceremonial paddle from the Solomon Islands fetched $AUS 3,400 ($US 2,270).

A spokesman for the auctioneers said "several hundreds of thousand dollars" was expected to be raised from the auction.

Meantime, Burns Philp has negotiated a further three month breathing space for the repayment of debts totaling $AUS1.5 billion ($US 1 billion).

The company's agreement with its six main banks was due to expire last Friday, according to The Sydney Morning Herald. But Burns Philp requested an extension to June 19 after its European bond holders called a meeting for April 17 to discuss the proposed debt reduction arrangements.

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